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Harvard Health Blog
Being mindful can help ease stress
- By Michael Craig Miller, MD, Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
A major way to help any person with stress is to engage with them as a full human being. Many people (of course, not all) who suffer with stress lack opportunities in their lives to be met with as the person that they really are, without judgement or demand. That is, a fully loving relationship. Such encounters, even if relatively brief, have the power to transform well-being, and this is the basis of the “healing relationship” in any psychotherapeutic model.
Another important way to deal effectively with stress is walking meditation. I find that taking a 30 minute walk especially in a natural setting alone or with a spouse or friend can ease tension, anxiety and stress. The combination of an aerobic exercise and meditation is a healthful combination. A couple of weeks ago I had a visual migraine headache that came upon me suddenly as I was driving. After I parked the car,I went for the meditation walk. Lo and behold the visual headache disappeared.
Here’s a suggestion: The next time you feel overwhelmed by your thoughts and/or sensory perceptions, instead of trying to assimilate or make sense of the whole barrage of information, be contented with being aware of their presence.
In other words, be aware that they are there in your field of awareness without trying to label them, understand them, change them, judge them or deny them. Just accept their presence and do nothing else.
Being mindful doesn’t mean getting entangled in whatever you’re mindful of. Conversely, it’s accepting (not equate to approving) the things you’re mindful of without internal or external fighting or struggling.
If you’re keen to develop greater mindfulness, in addition to the few great suggestions given by Dr. Miller, you may also want to practice mindfulness meditation on a daily basis. It’s a simple meditation that probably takes a lifetime to perfect. But don’t let that deter you. Even without being perfect, you’ll still gain much from the practice as studies have found.
There are many useful instructions on mindfulness meditation on the Internet. Find one that appeals to you most and try it. If you feel you need more help in learning how to meditate, look around and see if there’s a meditation center or experienced teacher near where you stay. Learning mindfulness meditation in a group setting could be reassuring and motivating than learning by yourself as it gives you chances to interact with other people and a teacher.
I wish you good luck.
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I think it depends on the situation. One thing that works for me is not to worry about things that I cant solve or change. For instance, I cant be stressed because someone else does not care about the environment. What I would care is what difference can I make to the environment to be a better place. So whether being mindful or not, it realy depends on the circumstances; and thats not being ignorant!!
I agree, but I also have a sort of “step 2″…or maybe it’s simply another way to relieve stress. Here’s what works for me: choosing some things in life to simply “disengage” from. The reason I say this is that I am a very responsible person – sometimes too much, in the way that some of what goes on in life around me, stresses me out. I feel like I have to “fix it” or “solve it” – but I am only one person, I already have a lot on “my plate” and therefor when I can’t “fix”, “solve” or help in some way – it stresses me out. My example is recently I had chosen to help a someone out – they had hit a life “snag” (just before Christmas last year) and were sort of suffering the consequences. I helped – then I helped again, then again and again – then I learned / realized that there was absolutely no plan, no drive and no initiative by that person to make their make their better, more productive or healthier. I was stuck – it bothered me, I WANTED to help make things better, it stressed me out that someone didn’t care. Anyway I had to disengage – I cannot solve others family problems, I cannot give someone ambition or the will to make thier situation better and I kind of look at it this way: I won’t help someone who won’t help themselves. Yes we really should be mindfull and we also should pick and choose what/who to engage and what/who to not – that saves a lot of stress.
mindfulness,I do that all the time,but this article inspires me something else,i will write something about this soon,thanks.
I don’t know, people always tell me that mindfulness is the key to being more relaxed and happier, but I question its usefulness for me. I have such an overactive mind. I am noticing everything CONSTANTLY. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, so that means I have a lot of sensory issues. I notice the way my clothes feel on my skin (usually bad), a radio playing in another room, 15 individual conversations, smells that no one else can notice, leaves blowing in the air, funny clouds in the sky – I notice everything. I am mindful of everything.And I am usually VERY overwhelmed, even just walking down the street. [URL removed by moderator]
Can that kind of mindfulness be good?
I usually try to block it out with music on my Walkman or stay busy so to try to block individual sensations out. I feel that *trying* to focus on them would just make me more overwhelmed. Thoughts?
Mindfulness is so simple and natural that clashes with the pace of our current life so hectic, messy and stressful. Learning mindfulness is to relearn, again as a beginner’s mind are the inquisitive minds of our young children. In addition to the formal practices, remember that you can take the essence of mindfulness is where in fact there is no other place beyond the here and now this! Armando Ribeiro das Neves Neto. Sao Paulo – Brazil.
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